Judicial Conscience and Natural Rights: A Reply to Professor Ledewitz

Seattle University Law Review 11:2 (1988). Reprinted in Original Intent & the Framers of the Constitution (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1994).


In our Spring 1987 issue, Professor Jaffa authored an essay in which he posited that the fundamental principles of equality and other tenets of natural law expressed in the Declaration of Independence were originally intended to be the principles of the Constitution of 1787 Professor Jaffa asserted that while the Framers believed in the “law of nature and nature’s God,” many contemporary constitutional thinkers, including fellow conservatives Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Attorney General Edwin Meese, do not. Thus, Jaffa argued, those conservatives “who today most aggressively appeal to the doctrine of original intent are among its most resolute antagonists.” In a responsive article, Professor Bruce Ledewitz, described what he considered to be a gap in Jaffa’s essay “between the consciousness of the Framers and the practice of judicial review today.” According to Professor Ledewitz, Jaffa provided no insight into how today’s judges, by relying on the principles of the “Declaration of Independence whether they believe in self-evident truths or not,” might actually resolve disputes concerning the implications of equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For Professor Ledewitz, the ultimate question is, “What sort of jurisprudence would result from a modern commitment to the natural law principles of the Declaration of Independence?” A question, he asserted, Jaffa did not expressly resolve. In the following essay, Professor Jaffa rejoins Professor Ledewitz in this timely and provocative exchange.

Seattle University Law Review